On 24 July this email was sent by Marian and I to our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:
“The crimes committed by Israel in imposing and maintaining its military Occupation of the West Bank and East jerusalem violate international law and, therefore, have global significance. Yet these violations of human rights are being supported by the US, which is so often referred to as one of New Zealand’s ‘traditional allies’. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), has ruled against Israel’s annexation Wall running inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
“In a UN News Press Release dated 23 July 2019 Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Gwyn Lewis, Director of West Bank Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the area, deplored the evictions and forcible transfers facing many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Referring to the recent and ongoing destruction of homes in the Palestinian community of Sur Baher [see also video of home demolitions] they reminded the world that: ‘Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory‘.
“The UN statement concluded that: ‘Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Baher would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights‘.
“With regard to a Ministry of Defence proposal to purchase $9 million in military equipment from Israel, Rule 44 states that the government may exclude a supplier on the basis of ‘human rights violations by the supplier or in the supplier’s supply chain‘.
“Please stand by our country’s values and apply Rule 44 to cancel the proposed purchase of $9 million in military equipment from Israel by the New Zealand Defence Force. The company providing the equipment, Roboteam, is an integral part of the Israeli Defence Force and provides equipment to support the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the siege of Gaza. It is providing active assistance to the Israeli Defence Force in their human rights abuses, such as the murder and maiming of unarmed Palestinian youngsters (16 killed so far this year) and the detention without trial of Palestinian children and minors.
“News media reports reveal how Israel has used its military to develop and trial these and other products, in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza.”
Prime Minister’s Office response
On 26 July we received the following reply from the Office of the Prime Minister:
“Dear Leslie and Marian Bravery
I am writing on behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, to thank you for your letter of 24 July 2019 concerning the Ministry of Defence proposal to purchase $9 million worth of military equipment from Israel, and asking that this order be cancelled.
As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister of Defence, Hon Ron Mark, your email has been forwarded to the Minister’s office for information.
Thank you for writing to Jacinda.
Office of the Prime Minister”
We replied to that dismissive response from the Prime Minister’s Office as follows:
“The concerns raised in our email, addressed to Jacinda Ardern, relate to international law, New Zealand’s foreign policy, human rights and the upholding of New Zealand’s values and so go beyond purely military matters. On 30 July, we emailed a response to Jacinda, expressing disappointment that our Prime Minister showed no willingness to reply positively regarding these issues and reminding her that it is the Government that may exclude a supplier, on the basis of ‘human rights violations by the supplier‘.”
We also asked Jacinda Ardern:
“What is the Government’s policy regarding Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law?
“What is the Government’s policy with regard to New Zealand contributing, through trade, to the profitability of the Israeli military?”
We also wrote that, “these crucial issues relate to New Zealand’s declared core values and adherence to rules-based international relations. The very existence of Rule 44 attests to that. As these matters are plainly beyond the sole determination of the Ministry of Defence, please reply to our questions in terms of overall Government policy.
We continue to await Ron Mark’s response, if any, to our email since it has been forwarded to him by the Prime Minister’s Office.
US opposes UN condemnation of Palestinian home demolitions
Last month, the US blocked an attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to issue a formal statement condemning Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher, East Jerusalem. The draft statement, circulated by Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa to the 15-member Council, as quoted in a Reuters report, expressed “grave concern” and warned that the demolition “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace”,. According to Reuters, diplomats said that the US told its counterparts in the UNSC that it could not support the draft text. A revised draft statement was later circulated, but the US also rejected that.
NZ Government Press Release
In a Press Release by the NZ Government dated 2 August 2019, announcing the visit of US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, on 5 and 6 August, New Zealand’s Defence Minister, Ron Mark, stated: “Operating and exercising with the US across a range of activities, amplifies New Zealand’s ability to contribute to international security and to protect and promote New Zealand’s interests.”
With regard to international security, we ask Ron Mark to distance New Zealand from the complicity in Israel’s violations of international law exhibited by the US at the Security Council. We also ask Mr Mark to express New Zealand’s independence regarding its support for the security of the Palestinian people.
The NZ Government Press Release appeared the day after the following email (sent 1 August) had been addressed to both Ron Mark and Jacinda Ardern:
“Dear Jacinda Ardern and Ron Mark,
“Today we received an email from Granate Kim of the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, describing how she watched in ‘absolute horror‘ as hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police entered the neighbourhood of Wadi Hummus in militarily Occupied Palestine to forcibly remove residents and destroy their homes. Although Israeli Occupation forces sealed off the area from journalists, Palestinian and Jewish activists still managed to film this latest example of Israel’s arrogant, daily inhumanities practised against the Palestinian people. As Granite Kim says, ‘if you are not made of stone, the footage will shake you.‘
“Miss Ardern and Mr Mark: We ask you to follow the example of Jewish Voice for Peace and stand with Israel’s victims in Wadi Hummus. Will you?
“Please pay attention to the violations of human rights raised in our recent email, including the ruling of the International Court of Justice. Can you appreciate how immoral and inexcusable it would be to purchase arms from US and Israel-based Roboteam?
“We shall publicise your responses globally.”
Israeli Army ‘exercises’
Israel‘s territorial ambitions include the Jordan Valley and it does its best to make life as miserable and uncertain as possible for the people there. The people live under the constant threat of being forced out of their dwellings to make way for Israeli Army exercises. Imagine the outcry and publicity were it Israeli settlers being so persecuted!
The Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has photographs and videos of these forced evacuations that are so reminiscent of the 1948 Nakba. Whole families in Khirbet Ibzik, including children, are also forced out of their homes whenever it suits the Israeli Army to impose its will. Privately-owned, churned-up agricultural land bears the scars, revealing the remains of mangled crops left by Israeli armoured vehicles. Israel, with its military subsidised by US taxpayers, also uses its forces to seize Palestinian tractors, farm equipment and vehicles. Israel then extort money from the owners, equivalent to hundreds of US dollars, for the return of their property. The people find that even the transportation of much-needed water is fraught with similar difficulties and, in addition, abandoned Israeli Army ordnance adds to the danger, causing severe injuries and even death.
Israel’s ‘field-tested‘ Occupation arms marketing
Last March, in a lecture at Columbia University, an Israeli professor presented evidence revealing how Israel offers its military Occupation of Jerusalem as a laboratory for states, arms companies and security agencies to market their technologies as ‘combat proven’. The presentation by Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at Israel’s Hebrew University, in her words, was through “the voices and writings of Jerusalemite children”. The data collected was part of a research project for the university. Together with another academic at the university, Shahrazad Odeh, she published an article demonstrating how the processing of Palestinian children through Israel’s criminal justice system is used to help enforce the Zionist state’s regime of colonial dispossession.
In his book War Against the People, Jeff Halper, Head of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), illustrates the menacing atmosphere of constant fear used by Israel to enforce its Zionist population-control regime upon the militarily Occupied Palestinian population. Without strong international action to demand Israeli respect for international law and human rights, the Israeli economy and its military will never voluntarily give up so profitable an enterprise. Halper explains clearly how this terror is becoming globalised, with major Western powers and corporations transforming their security agencies, police forces and military into co-operative instrument of population control.
A young Israeli speaks out
Maya Brand-Feigenbaum, aged 18, from Kiryat Tivon in northern Israel, has been imprisoned for refusing to serve the Israeli Occupation. She says she believes that “refusing to serve in the military is the best and most effective way” for her “to contribute to the ending of the occupation”.
In her statement of refusal to serve, she wrote: “My heart goes to my Palestinian friends who live in fear and constant insecurity. My heart goes to Palestinian children who are taken to custody, away from their parents, subject to disgraceful treatment which crushes their human dignity. My heart goes to all of the innocent civilians who were killed for demonstrating non-violently for their freedom. I protest against the humiliation of people who want to live freely and have to pass checkpoints every day. I protest against all war crimes, committed quietly beneath the surface. In solidarity with my Palestinian friends who act non-violently, I – an Israeli – am also taking non-violent action to promote peace and end the occupation. I cannot take part in an army that violates the basic human rights of my Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
Where does New Zealand stand?
On 5 August we received another email from the Prime Minister’s Office, also signed by Dinah Okeby, in reply to the further email we addressed to Jacinda Ardern on 30 July (see above). In Dinah Okeby’s latest reply from the Office of the Prime Minister regarding the questions:
■ What is the Government’s policy regarding Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law?
■ What is the Government’s policy with regard to New Zealand contributing, through trade, to the profitability of the Israeli military?
She simply re-stated:
“As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister of Defence, Hon Ron Mark, your email has been forwarded to the Minister’s office for information.”
So according to the Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman, Dinah Okeby, New Zealand Government policy regarding Israeli violations of international law is solely a matter for the Ministry of Defence! Therefore, is the matter of trading in a manner that advances Israel‘s arms profiteering also solely within the province of the Ministry of Defence?
Is this answer truly the Prime Minister’s way of dealing with international relations, or is this response from her Office simply automated and thoughtless? As we have already emphasised, these crucial issues relate to New Zealand’s declared ‘core values‘ and adherence to rules-based international relations. Has the Prime Minister really given up responsibility or has she been misrepresented? Who actually decides this country’s foreign affairs policy?
Who directs our foreign affairs policy?
The 2004 advisory opinion provided by the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel’s separation wall, especially where it tands on Palestinian land outside Israel and inside the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, is illegal and unjustifiable. The failure of western states to bring Israel to account amounts to complicity. Such impunity has emboldened Israel towards adopting ever more extreme violations of international law, not only in areas B and C of Occupied Palestine but also in area A, which the Oslo Accords assigned to the Palestinian Authority for the establishment of Palestinian statehood.
Just days after Israeli bulldozers destroyed ten Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the Israeli Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration approved the building of 2,304 new settlement housing units. In a statement on 6 August, even the UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, acknowledged that the Israeli Government’s approval of a new West Bank settlement project to add thousands of new housing units to the Occupied West Bank, contributes to the “effective annexation” of Palestinian territory. He also admitted that Israel’s expansion of settlements is “contrary to international law”.
We still have not heard from Ron Mark, even though the Prime Minister’s Office claims to have forwarded our two emails to him. We now ask Ron Mark:
Do you have any concern at all for the security of Palestinians, human rights for all and international law? Failure to withdraw from the proposal to purchase $9 million in military equipment from Israel would clearly indicate that you have not.
Respect for international law must be paramount and New Zealand should forthrightly declare its right to defend that principle. It must be made clear that New Zealand will not join with Israel’s allies in treating Palestinian as people whose rights can be trampled upon, in order to satisfy Israel. In the end, it is humanity’s security, as a whole, that i at stake. If greed, arms profiteering and the desire to permanently divide humanity are allowed to replace the provisions and safeguards for human rights so precariously arrived at following the Second World War, then humanity certainly face a new dark age. Humanity’s need to unite NOW has, more than ever before, become irreversibly urgent.